In the lead up to my regular psychologist session, I try to make notes about how I’ve been recently; so there’s something to discuss.
This last week has been really hard. I’ve been tightly wound, emotionally charged, drained, and completely forgetting to exercise my patience muscle. I wonder why…
I missed Tuesday pilates, I haven’t been in the garden, the pram was broken and I haven’t been walking, I missed hockey training, I haven’t picked up a book this week, I haven’t written any blogs for a while…
I proudly told my psychologist that “I know what I’ve done wrong, and I know how to get back on track; my self care habits lapsed.”
For some people, we require a little extra help keeping level heads, keeping patience at the forefront, and keeping calm. If we take the self care analogy of a cup; we need to first fill up our own cup so that we have something to pour into others’ cups. For some of us, our cups seem to be really small. For some seasons, our cups seem to be draining at a faster rate that we’ve been accustomed to. And it’s a shock when we realise that for the last week, our cup has been running on empty.
It might be parenthood, an emotionally demanding job, ministry commitments, community work, or even family that is taking from our cups. It might be a combination of an unknown number of commitments that, on their own, barely take anything from our cups, but when they’re all jumbled together, surrounding us all the time, they slowly but surely will drain that cup.
“It just seems like so much work.” I lamented to my psychologist. “It seems like much more work than it should be to keep my cup full.” It’s relentless. It seems exhausting. Self care and looking after myself seems like so much work… Seems like more work than its worth.
She agreed; it is a lot of work. It’s habits and discipline and priorities. For some people, putting themselves first comes naturally. For others, they don’t try as hard or have to work as hard to meet their own expectations. Their cups don’t need as much filling.
So, I can lament that my cup needs so much darn filling, or I can continue to prioritise that cup. I can accept when I’ve lapsed, and forgive myself for the hiccups along the way.
One major self care habit that I have recently committed to is, like so much of parenting babies, centred around my children’s sleep. When both of my children are sleeping, instead of rushing around trying to get “work” done, I do whatever I want to. I can garden, I can read a book, watch Netflix, have a nap if I want to. I use that time to refresh myself, not my house. I use that time to fill my cup. What happens when nap time doesn’t go to plan? Well… I have other habits to pick up the slack.
At the end of the day, it is a lot of effort to prioritise myself. But I need myself functional, I need the best possible version of myself to be available to my family, and my community, at all times. I don’t like the me that yells at my children, or threatens to rehome my dog everytime he annoys me. This version of myself, while valid and definitely part of the expression of God’s image, is not going to define me. The full cup (or even half full) is the image of God and expression of myself that I want to shine.
So, next time our babies are asleep, let’s close our eyes for a moment, take a big deep breath, and ask our souls, bodies, and cups what we need. Listen to the crying out of our beings; sleep, relaxation, exercise, chocolate…whatever it is, take some time to honour yourself. Take some time to fill your cup. Your life and your mum guilt will thank you.